Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans game preview - November 12

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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The Houston Rockets face the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night in New Orleans. The Rockets are 2-10 and tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the worst record in the league. Their contest with the Pelicans is the final game in a four-game road trip. The Rockets have gone 1-2 in the first three games, with a victory over the Orlando Magic and losses to the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. The game tips off at 7:30 central time.

The Pelicans enter the game with a 6-6 record and sit in eighth in the Western Conference. Over the past ten days, the Pelicans have struggled to a 2-4 record, including a 106-95 loss to the Damian Lillard-less Portland Trailblazers on Thursday night.

Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans: Stats to know

The New Orleans Pelicans, much like the Houston Rockets, make their living on the offensive glass. Their 28% offensive rebound rate is third in the league behind the Rockets and Grizzlies tied atop the leaderboard at 30.1%. Where the two sides converge is in effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage. 

The Pelicans aren’t special shot makers, their effective field goal percentage of 53.5% is essentially league average (53.3%), but the Rockets rank 27th in effective field goal percentage at 50.6%. However, the Pelicans have been quite good at taking care of the ball, as their 12.6% turnover percentage is the ninth-lowest mark in the NBA. Add it all up, and the Pelicans’ 114.5 offensive rating is the league’s 10th most potent. 

Stylistically, the Pelicans’ offense is a bit of a throwback, which isn’t a surprise considering their personnel. They post up the most in the league (10.3 possessions, 8.8% frequency), but at a middling efficiency (0.89 points per possession), they’re third in handoffs (7.7 possessions, 6.6% frequency), 5th in cuts (9.3 possessions, 8.1% frequency), and second in putbacks (8.3 possessions, 7.1% frequency). The effect on their shot chart is an attack heavy on shots around the rim and in the mid-range at the cost of the league’s lowest 3-point attempt rate. If your cranky dad is looking for a team, the Pelicans might just be the dopamine blast of nostalgia he needs. 

Unfortunately, the Rockets’ defensive weaknesses align well with the Pelicans' offensive strengths. The Rockets are the worst defensive-rebounding team in the NBA, the Pelicans are 11th, they allow the second-highest field goal percentage 0 to 3 feet from the rim (73.9%), and they allow the fifth-best field goal percentage 3 to 10 feet from the rim (48.8%). While the Pelicans get a ton of shots within 10 feet of the rim, they’re not all that efficient on those shots. If the Rockets are going to survive on defense, they’ll need to defend those shots better than they have to start the season. 

The one offensive area the Rockets have a distinct advantage is in 3-point attempts. The Rockets have the ninth-highest 3-point attempt rate, and the Pelicans allow the ninth-highest opponent 3-point attempt rate. The Pelicans have “held” opponents to 32.9% shooting on 3-pointers, the fifth-best mark in the NBA, but opponent 3-point percentage is a notoriously fickle metric. 

The Rockets are likely to hemorrhage points around the rim, and they’re going to have to make up for it by converting from three. With how well the Rockets have crashed the offensive glass, a 40% shooting night from three at volume should keep the game interesting.